trees are for hugging…a list of five books soaring with trees in honor of my son’s graduation

erik in stockholmMy son, Erik,  graduates from college this week!

I’m a happy mom, and deeply thankful for all I’ve learned from him as he has pursued majors in Biology and Environmental Studies. The world needs more people like Erik, devoting themselves to researching, restoring, protecting, and wisely stewarding the natural world.

I’m celebrating his success, fittingly, with five books about trees. Such glories, trees.

the tree lady cover image2The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever, by H. Joseph Hopkins, illustrated by Jill McElmurry
published in 2013 by Beach Lane Books

Kate Sessions grew up in Northern California in the late 1800s, a tree-loving, mud-grubbing girl with a bent for science which was not so common for girls in those days.

In 1883, she moved to San Diego,  a desert town the tree lady hopkins and mcelmurrywhose rusty dustiness was unbroken by trees. Before long, Kate could stand it no longer. Trees were needed, she said, and although no one thought trees would grow there, Kate set about to transform the city park into a shady, tree-filled oasis.

Hunting down trees from around the world that were suitable for this climate, Kate created a magnificent garden now known as Balboa Park. It remains a lush, green haven for the people of San Diego.

This pleasantly-told biography is just right for ages 5 and up. The gouache illustrations are really lovely, full of the beauty and hush and elegance of trees, and the fashions of the 1800s, with a bit of a Miss Rumphius flavor. What a great legacy to leave!

celebritrees cover imageCelebritrees: Historic and Famous Trees of the World, by Margi Preus, illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon
published in 2010 by Christy Ottaviano Books

Trees can live to be so, so, so old.

Which allows for the possibility of becoming known and loved by generations of people, and sometimes becoming legendary.

Here are 14 famous trees, and a short account of their lives. There’s Methuselah, a Bristlecone Pine in California that’s around 4,800 years old, the “oldest known single living organism on earth.” And General Sherman,celebritrees preus and gibbon that famous Sequoia, weighing about three MILLION pounds.

And The Tree of One Hundred Horses in Spain. Perhaps the thickest of all trees. Here we learn the story of how it got its name.

Each of these stories is quite short — just enough to acquaint us with these beauties in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Australia. The pages are dominated by Gibbon’s friendly, bold illustrations.

There’s additional info in the final pages telling us more about these and other “champion” trees, along with ideas for how you can help protect trees. It’s an upbeat, intriguing book for early elementary and up.

big tree cover imageBig Tree, by Mary and Conrad Buff
published in 1946 by The Viking Press

This Newbery Honor title traces the life story of Wawona, a Sequoiah growing in the forests of California.

It’s out of print — the sad fate of so many Honor titles — but worth tracking down for its unusual, storytelling mix of both history and nature lore. Those of you who know Holling Clancy Holling’s books will find a similar flavor here.

The story begins when Wawona is just a tiny seed, “no larger than an ant,” still packed into a tight brown cone on an ancient Sequoiah. When the cone splits, and Wawona is released, he is whirled by the wind to a perfect mound of earth.

We follow Wawona through the years, centuries, and milennia of his life, through storms and forest fires, as Native Americans and then white the big tree illustration mary and conrad bufflumbermen come his way. We learn how magnificently strong he is, as well as the only threat he really cannot withstand. Occasionally an event from history is mentioned so we get a better understanding of just how old this tree is.

Interspersed with the narrations about the tree itself, are a number of stories about various animals living in and near Wawona. There’s a bear who meets his match in Mother Skunk, a couple of bucks fiercely battling for supremacy, chipmunks, owls, golden eagles…and each story contains a nice bit of nature lore.

At 80 pages long, with gorgeous black-and-white illustrations throughout, it would make a nice read-aloud for early-elementary and up. Keep in mind that cruelties are inherent to authentic nature stories, and that’s the case here as well.

my old tree cover image 001My Old Tree, by Patricia Lee Gauch, illustrated by Doris Burn
published in 1970 by Coward-McCann, Inc.

Elderly, stately, grand trees. Mighty in girth and height. Broadly spreading branches and hefty limbs.

That’s the kind of trees that just beg to be climbed my old tree illustration doris burn 001and lolled in. That’s the kind of tree this boy has in mind for his tree fort and his hoped-for life among blossoms and squirrels and sky.

This story is a quaint pleasure, just the idle thinking of a small boy dreaming of how life in a tree might look. It beckons us with the lovely innocence, the simple non-electronic-ness, the roving outdoorness of a healthy childhood.

I adore Doris Burn’s work, and these soft, nostalgic, retro illustrations are classic Doris Burn.  It’s a sweet, vintage read to coax your kids outside and up a tree.

a tree is nice cover imageA Tree is Nice, by Janice May Udry, illustrated by Marc Simont
published in 1956 by Harper & Row

I’ve featured this book on Orange Marmalade before, but I just couldn’t do a whole list of five about trees without adding this gem.

It’s one of my all-time favorite children’s books. One of those, if-I-had-to-pick-just-10-for-the-desert-island, this-would-be-on-the-list, books. It won the Caldecott way back in 1957, but feels as fresh as if it were written a tree is nice illustration marc simontyesterday.

Udry’s charming, unsophisticated, pure reflections of what is so nice about trees, complemented by Marc Simont’s perfect paintings which capture the essence of trees with such splendor I get a pang in my heart. That’s what you get.

If you do not know this book, do not pass go, do not collect $200 until you’ve leisurely, lovingly enjoyed it.